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Shout! Shops MST3K Episodes to PBS Buyers

Dru Sefton at Current.org has a report that among some 75 shows that public TV programmers are previewing at distributor American Public Television’s annual Fall Marketplace this week is “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”

Shout!Factory, the Los Angeles distributor that holds the TV rights, recently approached APT with an offer, said Eric Luskin, v.p. of premium service and syndication. Luskin was not familiar with MST3K but mentioned it to Alison Schmidt, senior program associate, syndication, who reacted enthusiastically. “She said, ‘We have to get this!’” Luskin recalled.

Luskin also knew science fiction was a good fit for public TV; he was an early fan of the pubTV favorite “Doctor Who” and produced the documentary “The Making of Doctor Who: Silver Nemesis.” “So I knew the passion the sci-fi audience has and its positive relationship with public TV,” he said.

APT is offering programmers the chance to initially pick up four episodes, including “Manos: The Hands of Fate,” a howlingly awful 1966 clunker that is considered a MST3K classic. Other titles are “Hercules and the Captive Women,” “Gunslinger” and “The Unearthly.” All four are hosted by Hodgson, who later handed off the series to head writer Mike Nelson to host.

“If programmers embrace these, we could offer an ongoing ‘Best of MST3K,’” Luskin said. Broadcasters would also have digital rights for streaming online.

The episodes, which run between 94 and 97 minutes, will be edited to 88 minutes to conform to public TV schedules, Luskin said.

After Marketplace, programmers vote on which shows they’d most likely schedule. APT should know by mid-December whether MST3K will make the cut, Luskin said.

Thanks to commenter “Tarl Cabot” for the heads up.

39 Replies to “Shout! Shops MST3K Episodes to PBS Buyers”

  1. radioman970 says:

    MST3K hobnobbin with Are you Being Served? oh man! just too much!

       4 likes

  2. ElectricWizard says:

    Hmmm…makes me wonder from which segments the several-to-ten minutes worth of material will be cut from each episode in order to be compliant with public TV scheduling protocol?

    Either way it’s always good to see the show finding its way back to the boob tube.

       5 likes

  3. Hopkins says:

    I like the thought of MST3K entering the PBS ‘comedy after the fact’ pantheon along with Monty Python, etc.

       10 likes

  4. Editing out any material ruins it and is an automatic fail.

    PBS is too tightly wound. God forbid that common sense emerge on a channel “for the people.”

    I am reminded of Nicko McBrain’s comment about MTV’s creative editing on some of Iron Maiden’s videos: Mighty Tight Vage.

    MTV was editing content, not length. I believe one of the offensive words bleeped by MTV was “Fokker,” as they did not know it was a plane. (or knew it was a plane but bleeped it anyway, which is even worse)

    Stupid MTV. And stupid PBS if they remove even one second from the Book of MST3K merely to adhere to an arbitrary 88 minute rule.

    Their pledge drives certainly don’t adhere to that kind of limitation.

    Normally, I’m all for spreading the word, but I don’t like it when they jack with the monkey. I detest it. Better to not do it at all if you’re not going to do it RIGHT.

       14 likes

  5. senorpogo says:

    @4 – Sheesh. I don’t think PBS are the ones who are wound tight. It’s just a show. Relax.

    They cut about seven minutes from episodes for the MST Hour and that worked out fine. It also gives people a reason to buy/find the complete versions.

       21 likes

  6. Biff Sleestak says:

    They made edits for The Mystery Science Theater Hour, and before that, lots of movies got edited for time anyway.

    Though, it being “no standard commercials” PBS, I dunno why they’d need to- surely there’s short programs they could plug in so each experiment fits into a two hour block, or adjust the schedule to allow a 1:40 block and the next show could start at 45 or 50 past the hour or whatever. (I’m surprised the :00 and :30 start times have lasted as long as they have, really. Even The Tonight Show used to start at :35, IIRC. Dunno if it still does, or what was up with that anyway.)

    Surely they have experience with other old shows (and of course, Classic Dr Who) to be able to do it right.

       5 likes

  7. Rob says:

    They don’t show commercials so the very odd running time of MST3K would be a real pain to program and you want programmers to actually pick it up. It’s either cut 4-7 minutes or find a way to fill 23-26 minutes and while we love the show it’s not exactly something like Sherlock or Downton Abbey where they’re going to produce host material to fill the time.

    Speaking of running time, does anyone know if the Retro TV commercials are edited? I’ve watched a few and haven’t noticed any but commercial times are generally longer than they used to be (and shows are shorter by 2-4 minutes or more) and I wonder if they’ve made any. Given the types of commercials I have seen I’m pretty sure they only have just enough to fill even the old time for breaks on the show. :-)

       4 likes

  8. FordPrefect says:

    Retro TV doesn’t have to edit anything out because they really don’t have a ton of major commercial sponsors. I assume they make up the revenue with those long blocks of infomercials.

    I’m all for MST3K getting as much exposure as possible. We didn’t have Comedy Central, so my introduction to the series was the brief syndication run for The MST Hour. I didn’t know I was missing any footage till much later. When I saw the two hour versions it felt like seeing a director’s cut or something. At the time it didn’t occur to me that episodes of a TV show could run for two hours. I just always assumed it was always an hour long.

       6 likes

  9. If they cut out a host segment or two, it doesn’t really bother me, because the theater riffing is what MST3K is really about. Also, most episodes are available unedited on DVD.

    In any case, this is great news.

       5 likes

  10. Torgospizza-NJ says:

    Your tax dollars at work…the theory of public tv was that it would provide educational programs of a type that you wouldn’t see on regular tv… in a scramble to get viewers, PBS stations starting running reruns of old tv shows and britcoms while there are cable stations devoted to history, science and the arts that are part of the basic cable that nearly everyone gets…Love MST3K and
    I’ll watch if it comes on Channel 13, but the joke it over…PBS and NPR need to go the way of
    the telegram, home milk delivery and running boards on cars…taxpayers shouldn’t subsidize “Doctor in the House” and (urgh) Mark Russell.

       9 likes

  11. ForkliftKiller says:

    “Your tax dollars at work?” Spare us.

    In the words of Neil deGrasse Tyson: “Cutting PBS[& NPR] support (0.012% of budget) to help balance the Federal budget is like deleting text files to make room on your 500Gig hard drive.”

    And I noticed that you conveniently ignored the POSITIVE programming that they put out (mostly during the hours that children watch TV). I mean, how good is cable TV when they cancelled MST3k to air shows like Ghost Hunters and Ancient Aliens? Yeah, real educational.

       26 likes

  12. JCC says:

    Torgospizza-NJ:
    …while there are cable stations devoted to history, science and the arts that are part of the basic cable that nearly everyone gets…

    Yeah but they eventually give up on trying to enrich minds and just end up showing Generic Naked Gypsy Redneck Bitch Slapping Shows.

       13 likes

  13. BC says:

    All these comments and not a single reference to Overdrawn at the Memory Bank? Sometimes it feels like I don’t even know you folks.

       24 likes

  14. ern2150 says:

    PBS had no problem running odd-length Doctor Who “movies” (compilations of several episodes with the intervening credits crudely edited out) for years at the end of a broadcast day, and MST3K is perfect for that timeslot too.

       4 likes

  15. Goshzilla says:

    There are many arguments for defunding PBS and every one of them can be refuted by two words: Sesame Street.

       10 likes

  16. Professor Firefly says:

    What if they cut out some of the credits towards the end and the stinger? That’s not too bad,is it?

       0 likes

  17. Nomad says:

    Well, I guess start by cutting out every reference to “commercial sign!” …that should shave off a few seconds at least

       1 likes

  18. Kenneth Morgan says:

    BC:
    All these comments and not a single reference to Overdrawn at the Memory Bank? Sometimes it feels like I don’t even know you folks.

    I did back in the “This date in MSTory” post that had the initial news.

    Like I said, then, the thought of cutting the shows concerns me. I’d rather they presented them full-length and just filled the remaining time with vintage short subjects or, when appropriate, Pledge Week/Month/Year bumpers.

       1 likes

  19. EricJ says:

    @13 – We’re not Mike, and Overdrawn wasn’t “PBS’s fault”. PBS was the wild pioneer frontier days, back in the 70’s-’83, with a lot of little ramshackle mining towns.

    I’m wondering, does PBS even SHOW syndicated programming anymore? I’ve had to live out near Boston, where WGBH is responsible for half the network programming on the air, and had to find remote little New Hampshire stations just to get one measly Are You Being Served rerun on a Saturday night. And the move to HD broadcast doesn’t even allow that as much as it used to.
    Yeah, I miss the days of Britcoms, Doctor Who and CBC “Seeing Things”, too, but there are a LOT of depressing reasons why we’ve seen the slow extinction of classic reruns off of broadcast and cable. Save your disks, that’s where you’ll find your shows. :cry:

    (@10 – C’mon, say it, say it, you know you wanna: Any rightwing attack on PBS HAS to invoke the dreaded F-word….C’mon, (squishes mouth) “Front…Frontliii…” )

       0 likes

  20. EricJ says:

    Torgospizza-NJ: the theory of public tv was that it would provide educational programs of a type that you wouldn’t see on regular tv… in a scramble to get viewers, PBS stations starting running reruns of old tv shows and britcoms while there are cable stations devoted to history, science and the arts that are part of the basic cable that nearly everyone gets

    (PLLFFTTT!!) (drink-spray!)

    Let me guess, A&E, History Channel, Discovery, TLC and Bravo?
    How are things back there in 1994?…Still enjoying those Mark Russell specials? ;)

       5 likes

  21. underwoc says:

    They edited out more than just the credits from those old Doctor Who “movies”. The original DW series was notorious for starting each episode with an extended reprise of the previous cliffhanger ending. On any given four-parter, you could trim as much as 20 minutes before you ran out of redundant footage.

    That said, Denver’s Channel 6 used to run the unedited episodes in a single 3-4 hour block on Sunday mornings when I was a kid. And later, when Channel 12 picked it up, the scheduling got even looser.

    I think individual PBS station program directors could deal with airing the MST3K eps unedited. The problem is the front office bean counters. Does anyone know if BBI is involved in the editing process, at least?

       0 likes

  22. Graboidz says:

    If the edited versions of MST3K shown on PBS lead to more people discovering the show, and possibly tossing some more money at Shout!, then I’m all for it. These edited shows are obviously not going to be the go to viewing experience for anyone posting on these boards anyway, but as a “gateway drug” to the larger world of MST3K for noobs, I say “Huzzah!”.

    And I have to say, edited or not, if I’m flipping through the channels and stumble across an MST3K episode, I’ll pop it on for background noise of catch a couple minutes to just grab a quick chuckle or two. This can only be a good thing.

       7 likes

  23. PrezGAR says:

    I know one PBS station actually showed Cinematic Titanic’s The Doomsday Machine during a pledge drive a few years back. One of the pledge incentives was tickets to a CT Live show. They even had, I believe, Joel and Frank in studio. (I could be wrong on who it was.)

       3 likes

  24. Kali says:

    Okay, Overdrawn at the Memory Bank. Produced through a PBS station. Agony Booth said it straight: this MST3K experiment was the only one you and your tax dollars helped pay for — then the producers ran across the border to Canada to use it as a tax shelter. Dr. F would be proud.

    http://www.agonybooth.com/recaps/Overdrawn_at_the_Memory_Bank_1983.aspx

    The best movie they made in this grand experiment was “The Lathe of Heaven,” which was ten times better than the movie that came out twenty years later (and PBS spent one-tenth as much on theirs). And the guy who played the Doctor later played the Klingon Kahless on NextGen.

       1 likes

  25. Henry says:

    If the have to cut them up, don’t even bother.

       2 likes

  26. senorpogo says:

    @24- I had to look it up. KETC-TV in St. Louis.

       0 likes

  27. Torgospizza-NJ says:

    @11 I didn’t say funding should be cut because we can’t afford it.. And the fact that there are good programs on PBS is an irrelevancy….there are good programs on Showtime, Starz, Netflix, Hulu and scores of other stations….when I was growing up there were seven channels on the dial and no opportunity to see a silent movie, classical music performance, serious political debate, or a documentary without PBS ( it was still NET when I was a kid) but that’s no longer true….Antiques Roadshow and Downtown Abbey are just fine, but there’s no reason to pay 445 million dollars annually to bring cultural /educational programming to the masses when it’s as close as your iPhone……but let’s not argue….it’s only two weeks until the Turkey Day Marathon! :-)

       1 likes

  28. cityofvoltz says:

    I would imagine if you cut out credits, and trimmed off all the spinning globes that segwayed to commercials. you would be pretty close to your new time mark, perhaps edit down the intro? If that didn’t do it- you could edit out the 6 doors into/ out of the theater. That would preserve most of the actual content. I don’t watch pbs anymore, namely i don’t watch tv any more, usually netflix & dvds, or youtube. so its really no sweat off my back one way or the other. Now if they put mst3k on right between episodes of sesame street… ;)

       1 likes

  29. senorpogo says:

    @27 – There are plenty of families under the poverty line that don’t have cable, phones, Netflix, etc. PBS provides them with their only source of educational television. Maybe PBS isn’t cost effective and should be cut/altered/whatever, but I think it’s untrue to suggest that educational television has become so ubiquitous that PBS provides a service that is redundant.

       6 likes

  30. Yipe Stripes says:

    I’ll call Ortega. I’m making this happen.

       1 likes

  31. ready4sumfootball says:

    I feel like talking about PBS’s funding is getting dangerously close to talking about politics around here, but I’ll add my thoughts just to try getting a POV somewhere in the middle in there. I get why people want to keep PBS around, arguments for redundancy aside. At the same time, 445 million (if that number is correct) is a LOT of money to keep it running. Surely there are ways to reduce that number dramatically without killing PBS. It might take a little bit of adjusting, and don’t ask me for a roadmap to get there, but it probably wouldn’t be that hard to do.

       1 likes

  32. A-lion-jumped-out-and-shot-her says:

    As long as they don’t replace Doc Martin, I’m happy…

       0 likes

  33. John Seavey says:

    ready4sumfootball: I feel like talking about PBS’s funding is getting dangerously close to talking about politics around here, but I’ll add my thoughts just to try getting a POV somewhere in the middle in there. I get why people want to keep PBS around, arguments for redundancy aside. At the same time, 445 million (if that number is correct) is a LOT of money to keep it running. Surely there are ways to reduce that number dramatically without killing PBS. It might take a little bit of adjusting, and don’t ask me for a roadmap to get there, but it probably wouldn’t be that hard to do.

    $445 million only sounds like a lot because the number isn’t being put into perspective. In 2013, the US spent $3,454,000,000,000. (That’s three trillion, four hundred fifty four billion.) $445,000,000 represents 0.012% of the federal budget–in other words, in terms of America’s priorities, the entire budget to run PBS is less than a rounding error. In the words of Neil Gaiman, “It would be a lot of money to find sitting next to a tree somewhere, but not a lot (to do what it’s intended to do).” (He was talking about the budget of Mirrormask, but it’s equally applicable here.)

       2 likes

  34. ready4sumfootball says:

    No, it sounds like a lot because it is a lot. Comparing it to $3,454,000,000,000 only reflects the problem that we spend more than we take in in even greater detail. That’s about $11,000 for every one person. Where is all that money coming from? What other programs are we giving money to that we don’t want to or can’t drop in order to fix this problem? You have to make cuts somewhere. Not getting rid of anything because it takes so little space is why hoarders have a lot of problems. And look, I’m not saying we have to kill PBS. All I’m suggesting is that maybe a little reorganizing is in order, prioritizing the things we want to keep and throwing the rest out. And for some of the things we do keep we can try to find a new way to fund it.

       2 likes

  35. Goshzilla:
    There are many arguments for defunding PBS and every one of them can be refuted by two words:

    Monty Python.

       0 likes

  36. Brandon says:

    I think I figured out something that would be of use on the funding debate. The $445 million dollar figure cited isn’t PBS’s budget. It’s the total annual allocation to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), as of the 2014 fiscal year. 72 percent of its funds go to local public radio and television stations, not to PBS directly (nor National Public Radio, for that matter).

    For each member station, CPB aid could be as low as a single-digit percentage or as high as 25 to 50 percent, depending on the market and format of the station. You’d have to check with your local station to see how much it is.

    For every federal dollar received, stations raise six more on their own. If federal funding were zeroed out tomorrow, there are a couple of ways stations could cope. One is selling more underwriting, which means more “Support for this program is provided in part by…” messages. Another is holding pledge drives more frequently or for longer periods per drive. Neither are great options. But they’re there.

    In general, only 15 percent of PBS’s budget comes directly from CPB. That’s about $1.35 per taxpayer on an annual basis, not $11,000.

    If your argument is purely philosophical, that exactly zero dollars and zero cents should be sent to public broadcasting, that’s fine. I disagree, but it’s a perfectly valid opinion. But if your argument is that PBS alone costs taxpayers the cited “$11,000 for every one person” figure, that’s simply not true.

    And yes, I’m one of the godless infidels of public broadcasting. I don’t think you and I will shake up the world, ready4sumfootball, but I like my job and it keeps me away from heavy machinery, which is good for everyone.

       1 likes

  37. ready4sumfootball says:

    Okay, to clear some stuff up because I think there was some confusion:

    1. That “11,000 per person” thing is me rounding up a little bit. It’s a little rough, but I wasn’t trying to be precise. But that isn’t the cost of PBS; it’s the total 2013 government spending figure provided above split per person. My point was that figure is too high and needs to go down, independent of how I might feel about PBS. Given the figures above for PBS funding, you’re right, it is about $1.35 per person.

    2. From the start, I’ve tried to make it clear that my perspective is NOT in favor of killing PBS. I don’t think that is necessary. My point was that even if the taxes are as low as $1.35 annually per individual, I’d like to see PBS make that money some other way if at all possible. And you know, it may not be. I’m not an expert on this and am mostly throwing my uninformed ideas around here, but it seems to me that if there is something like a $3 annual activation fee for PBS services people will pay for it and you might even get a little extra cash on the side. Or maybe there’s some other way, I don’t know. Again, not an expert on these kinds of things. But my philosophy here is mostly about keeping actual taxes low while keeping things running at the same time if possible, and I think it could theoretically be done with relative ease in the case of the CPB. But I could be wrong.

       0 likes

  38. G R Robertson says:

    Well I don’t live in the US but….if its cut carefully and the show still makes sense it could turn a few people on to the fun. Who knows they might even be tempted to get new shows, or a show with a similar concept made if its a sucess.

       0 likes

  39. Brandon says:

    Absolutely. I understood you weren’t making an argument that public broadcasting doesn’t have value or isn’t worth preserving. We’re on the same page about that. In fact, I appreciate that the discussion as presented here is absent the rancor that usually characterizes discussions about funding for CPB/NPR/PBS.

    But I don’t think if we canned CPB tomorrow, you and I would get a nice $11,000 check in the mail the next day (although if that were true, let’s talk – I could use recessed lighting in the living room).

    As you underscored – and I completely agree – I don’t think anyone has the answer that will solve it all. I wish we did, if for no other reason than it pains me to see CPB kicked around as a political football. Maybe the Michael J. Nelson Foundation (of Projected Man fame) has a few dollars it could toss us.

    Above all, thanks for having the discussion, and allowing me to bring in my perspective to the proceedings.

       0 likes

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